Wine Tasting Notes, 2008: Kuleto Estate

The impressive view from Kuleto Estate.

My recent quest for Zinfandel lead me up Sage Canyon Road this afternoon — about 1400 feet above the valley floor — to Kuleto Estate. This remarkable mountain-top property, with a driveway as steep and as crooked as it is long, certainly ranks as one of the most remote destinations in the Napa Valley. Yet the winery is absolutely worth the trip, even as gasoline prices continue to soar into the stratosphere.

To be sure, Sage Canyon Road tends to be off the radar for most of Napa Valley’s visitors. Anything with a Sage Canyon address is a destination winery by definition, and few of these places (if any) are open to the public without prior appointments. Sage Canyon Road, which is also a segment of Highway 128, begins at the Silverado Trail (just a touch south of [… read more …]

Napa Rumor Mill: Martini House Closing, to Be Purchased by Flemings Steakhouse

[UPDATE: The rumor below has since been confirmed, although chef Todd Humphries will not be going to the CIA, nor Jeanty at Jack’s, as he mentions in the comments.]

Folks, the stories don’t get much more wild than this one, but I’m going to roll with it anyway, since that’s part of what I do: I’ve just heard that the Martini House in St. Helena will be sold to Flemings Steakhouse. I’ve been mulling this one over all morning, thinking about the possibility of this rumor being true, and what it could all mean to the Napa Valley. What I do know is that the Martini House has struggled over the last couple years, due to the economic downturn: Along the way, the St. Helena restaurant has lost its Michelin star (I had speculated that the “family meal” program had been part of that); the Kobe burger, which was [… read more …]

Napa's Top 25 Wine Tours

Outside Quixote (left) and outside Schramsberg (right).

These types of lists are always debatable — if not questionable — because you have to wonder about the author’s credentials. Who really comes up with these lists, and much do they know about anything? It’s a fair question. Lots of travel writers have come to the Napa Valley and covered the wine scene, and there are plenty of opinions about all kinds of wineries.

My own perspective is uniquely local. I’ve lived in Napa for over 10 years and have spent most of that time as a professional chef (at the moment, I work as a chef-instructor at a local cooking school). Over the years, I have taken breaks from restaurant life to work as a wine educator. I spent a year at Grgich Hills pouring wine, and I spent three years at Nickel & Nickel hosting tours and tastings.

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Wine Tasting Notes, 2008: Zinfandel Blind Tasting Results

I hosted a Zinfandel tasting last week, in which five Zinfandels were blind tasted by a panel of 15 people in the wine industry. The flight of Zins included the following:

• Kuleto Estate Napa Valley 2006 ($39)

• Nickel & Nickel Bonfire Vineyard Dry Creek Valley 2006 ($48)

• Ridge Ponzo Vineyard Russian River Valley 2006 ($28)

• Unti Dry Creek Valley 2005 ($25)

• Mauritson “Rockpile” Rockpile Ridge Vineyard 2006 ($35)

The resounding winner of the tasting was Nickel & Nickel’s Bonfire 2006, which earned six first-place votes against zero last-place votes. The only other Zin to avoid any last-place votes was the Kuleto 2006, which ranked second overall with three first-place votes. The adage that “you get what you pay for” is often undermined by blind tastings, but it actually held true [… read more …]